A DJ Returns to Mix Things Up in Burma

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 29 April 2014

RANGOON — Burmese-Australian DJ Kieran C Way—also known as DJ K.C., or by his Burmese name Nay Myo—lives in Melbourne, Australia. Born in Burma in 1969 with show business in the family—his grandmother Winnie was an actress and singer in the 1950s—he left the country for Australia in 1977.

Kieran C Way is now an accomplished DJ, and runs the United DJ Mixing School. He is now planning to return to the country of his birth and open DJ schools in Rangoon and Mandalay. He spoke to The Irrawaddy’s Kyaw Hsu Mon last week about his aspiration to train upcoming DJs in Burma.

Question: When did you start your life as a DJ in Australia?

Answer: It’s been 25 years since I started as a DJ in 1987-88 in Australia.

Q: What is the life of a DJ in Australia like? And how does your business work?

A: I grew up with a lot of music through my grandmother in my childhood life. She always listened to music with cassette tapes, recorders with big record collections, playing music 24/7. Music was always around me. After I start to study in university, I started pursuing music by myself. I just started mixing, DJing in parties then more and more parties invited me. I stopped the university student life and started doing music more because demand was getting bigger.

Then I’d get invited to more parties to DJ then slowly I just got involved full-time as a DJ. I started my DJ school in Australia after winning the first Australian DMC National DJ competitions in 1992, 1993 and 1996. I placed 5th in the world and a lot of people asked me to teach them, I thought maybe I can start to open a school. At that time there was no DJ school in the world and I had nothing to follow at that time. Then three or four years later of experimenting and trying different ways of teaching, it became a success and I saw good results with my students. In the early 1990s there were no DJ schools anywhere in world. But in 1998-1999, when turntables outsold guitars, many schools started opening and DJ schools become popular, the UK and US included, many students appeared. So I changed my school from part-time to full-time.

Q: Why do you want to open a DJ school in Burma?

A: I came here for first time in 30 years in 2007. I visited a few night clubs and I had an idea to do something like a school here because I didn’t meet many DJs and felt I need to help the Burmese music scene and help create more Burmese DJs. I didn’t open a DJ school at that time, but made plans for the school with my family, friends and sponsors here.

I came back last year, 2013, and DJed at water festival [at the 5 Network Stage]. I also came last November to DJ at GTR Club [in Rangoon] and organized a Hip Hop 40th Anniversary Seminar with many Myanmar Hip Hop artists. This time, I met many DJs and was surprised to see so much talented DJs here of such high international standards. I wanted to do something for them because I felt the world is closed from them and they are not known outside Burma. So this time I had the idea to organize the DMC DJ Competition in Burma so they can compete on a world stage and other DJs from around the world will recognize that Burmese DJs have talent and we can put Burma on the map. And eventually maybe Burmese DJs can tour the world and be famous like the European and US DJs.

The DMC DJ Competition started in London 1986 and it operates in 40 countries, having a competition worldwide every year. Many super star DJs first started from this competition including DJ Q Bert—the world’s best Scratch DJ from San Francisco—Mix Master Mike (Beastie Boys), Roc Raida (X-Ecutioners), Craze (Miami), and so on. There are so many popular DJs that became famous because of this competition. It is like the Olympics of DJing. This is why I want to bring this competition here to Burma for the first time. I do really want those [Burmese DJs] to be on the world stage, and let people know that Burma can be at the top with the world’s best. To have this outlet for the established DJs and a school for the upcoming DJs is a dream of mine. I really want to help expose Burmese talent to the world.

Q: When and where will your DJ schools open in Burma?

A: As we are planning, the DJ school will open on November this year; the locations will be Yangon and Mandalay.

Q: Who is eligible to attend your DJ school? How much will the course fee be?

A: The course is open for all ages and the fee is still to be decided but will be based around the same structure we have used in Australia. There will be approximately 12 sessions included, that’s two sessions a week. I want to use the same structure we have used in Australia for the last 20 years and has proven results with many ex-students working all over the world. As I have a lot of teaching experience, I know how to teach the beginners step by step. We will work together with the Tin Moe Lwin [who runs a talent and modeling school], she has offices in Yangon and Mandalay.

Q: How can you guarantee your attendees that they will succeed after attending your school?

A: Basically, at the end of the course, they will receive the United DJ certificate, which is recognized around the world because we were the first DJ School. We will use a very similar formula to what we use in Australia. So they have to finish 12 curriculums.

After that we will give them extra time to practice with our equipment. We don’t rush them until they are ready. When they are ready we will get them to perform together on stage to graduate. We will then pick the best student and we will take him to Australia for him or her to perform in the night clubs we operate there. We have a big agency there so we can really promote the top student there with media and exposure through our large networks. It will mainly be in Sydney and Melbourne where we are based. So basically we are offering a guaranteed job placement overseas [to the top student].